The Pacific Northwest takes center stage on two consecutive weekends. The long-time Chuckanut 50k this weekend, and the Gorge Waterfalls 100k next, both feature top-flight racing. Other highlights include Ford Smith‘s 50k in Utah and a number of races throughout the southeast.
Chuckanut 50k – Fairhaven, Washington
Just 13 seconds separated David Laney and Andrew Benford at the front of the men’s race, a thrilling finish in the race’s 23rd year. Laney, the race’s 2014 runner-up and 2013 champion, gained the top position with a 3:40 mark. After opening up a three-and-a-half-minute lead up on the Chuckanut Mountain Ridge, Laney held off a fast-closing Benford over the final 10k. Following January’s Bandera 100k, it was Laney’s second straight ultra win as he builds towards June’s Western States 100.
Benford, a 1:05 half marathoner and former University of Richmond standout, now living in Flagstaff, Arizona, also clocked 3:40. Despite being a previous U.S. Mountain Running Team member, this was his first race longer than 15 miles. Brett Hornig, part of the Rogue Valley Runners stable, was third in 3:51. Max King’s course record from last year stands at 3:35.
On a rainy day that generally slowed finish times, Magdalena Boulet rolled to a 4:13 winning time. Like Laney, she too extended an ultra winning streak, hers to three. She’s next registered for The Canyons 100k in northern California on May 2.
Catrin Jones edged Cassie Scallon for second, the two finished in 4:25 and 4:29. The race marked Scallon’s return from long-term injury. She’s next registered for the Lake Sonoma 50, a race she won in 2013, in three weeks.
Antelope Island Buffalo Run – Syracuse, Utah
Ford Smith, age 18, pushed his ultra win streak to six with a 3:48 winning time in the 50k. Smith led the race, held on an island in the Great Salt Lake, throughout. Back in 2013, in what was then his ultra debut, he ran 4:35 to finish sixth. Lydia Blandy gained the women’s crown in 4:44.
Brandt Ketterer and Leslie Howlett won the 100-mile race in 17:12 and 19:47. Over 50 miles, it was Daniel Howell and Olivia Brown on top in 6:54 and 8:17.
Bethany Patterson continues to rise once again (AJW’s retrospective on Bethany) the southeast’s racing ranks. A year ago the 36-year-old was just 11th at the Terrapin Mountain 50k in 6:07. She won this year’s race, held in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, in 4:58. Following last month’s win at the Holiday Lake 50k, she leads the six-race Beast Series of events. Adam Schroer topped the men’s field in 4:01.
Alabama’s Lake Martin 100, a third-year race with 13,000 feet of elevation gain, had previously announced that Karl Meltzer would be competing. [Updated] However, he didn’t run in the end. Ken Ebener and Missy Kittrell won in 22:18 and 27:23, respectively.
After day one, Troy Shellhamer and Ashley Nordell led the 3 Days of Syllamo stage race in Arkansas. The race packs consecutive days of 50k, 50 miles, and 20k over a long weekend in the Ozark Mountains. At press time, it wasn’t yet clear how the remaining days finished.
The HAT Trail Run 50k, in its 27th year around Maryland’s Susquehanna State Park, was won by Christopher Beck and Jackie Palmer in 4:13 and 4:37, respectively.
At Argentina’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 80k event, Gustavo Reyes finished alongside his nephew, Franco Paredes, each clocked at 8:14. Luciana Urioste dominated the women’s race with an 9:37 finish that placed her ninth overall, and over two hours ahead of her closest female challenger.
Michael Borst and Suzanne Tulsey ran winning times of 6:29 and 7:56 on the 51-mile Badwater Cape Fear course in North Carolina.
Andrew Rhodes and Sydney Wait hit West Virginia’s two-loop Haulin’ in the Holler 50k first in 4:38 and 6:31, respectively.
At the Shamrock Sportsfest 8k in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Joe Gray sprinted to a 23:48 third-place finish. Michael Wardian ran 26:20 for 10th and, true to form, doubled back in the next day’s races to complete the King Neptune Challenge. On Sunday, he ran 1:11 for the half marathon, and after a short break, ran the full marathon in 2:53.
Next Weekend – Gorge Waterfalls 100k – Cascade Locks, Oregon
The second-year race is now part of the Montrail Ultra Cup and as such, two men’s and women’s Western States 100 qualifiers are up for grabs. Deep, deep fields are expected for both the men’s and women’s races.
Potential men’s winners:
- Jeff Browning, second at 2015 Hagg Lake 50k
- Ryan Ghelfi, third at 2015 Black Canyon 100k
- Justin Houck, first at 2014 White River 50
- David Laney, first at 2015 Chuckanut 50k
- Mario Mendoza, first at 2014 Gorge Waterfalls 50k
- Andrew Miller, first at 2015 Orcas Island 50k, first at 2015 Georgia Death Race
Mendoza opted out of the Chuckanut 50k to properly focus on this race. “It was a super hard decision, a month ago I was 90% sure I’d be running Chuckanut, but my training has gone really well and I want to see what I can do in the 100k, against some good competition, and fresh and ready,” Mendoza said of his plans.
Podium men’s contenders:
- Ben Bucklin, first at 2014 Le Grizz 50
- Yassine Diboun, fourth at 2014 Gorge Waterfalls 100k
- Graham Forsyth, second at 2014 Canadian Death Race 125k
- Dominic Grossman, third at 2014 Gorge Waterfalls 50k
- Jason Loutitt, fourth at 2015 Chuckanut 50k
- Gary Robbins, fifth at 2015 Orcas Island 50k
- Bob Shebest, first at 2014 Pine to Palm 100
- Gennadii Tertychnyi, second at 2014 Plain 100
- Christopher Wehan, fourth at 2015 Sean O’Brien 100k
- Nathan Yanko, sixth at 2011 Miwok 100k
Grossman, 18th at last year’s Western States 100, explained his motivation. “I had some bad luck at the Sean O’Brien 100k with a rolled ankle early in the race and had to drop, so I’m headed to Gorge (Waterfalls 100k) for the Western (States 100) spot. I know it’s a challenging course to race fast on as its got a lot of winding and slick singletrack that ebbs and flows. It’s going to take some finesse to nail it.”
Although registered, would-be contenders Gary Gellin and Aaron Heidt are said to be not racing.
Potential women’s winners:
- Amy Sproston, first at 2015 HURT 100
- Joelle Vaught, eighth at 2015 Tarawera 100k
- Michele Yates, 2013 Ultrarunner of the Year
Just two months and 10 days after giving birth, Yates attempted to earn a Western States 100 qualifier at Arizona’s Black Canyon 100k. She dropped from that race, and says she still has some lingering weaknesses, but is feeling much stronger.
Yates excitedly commented, “I’ve actually been able to run some personal bests up some of my favorite mountains. I think Gorge (Waterfalls 100k) will be just what I need, hills, technical trail, maybe some cranky weather, and of course I love starting out in the dark!”
Potential women’s contenders:
- Tara Berry, third at 2014 Gorge Waterfalls 100k
- Ashley Laird, first at 2014 American River 50
- Bree Lambert, first at 2015 Sean O’Brien 50k
- Abi Moore, fourth at 2014 Javelina Jundred
- Sarah Ostaszewski, first at 2014 Autumn Leaves 50
- Melanie Peters, third at 2014 Bandera 100k
- Alissa St. Laurent, 13th at 2014 Western States 100
- Janessa Taylor, sixth at 2014 Gorge Waterfalls 100k
- Alicia Woodside, first at 2014 Gorge Waterfalls 100k
As with Grossman, Yates, and so many other entrants above, Bree Lambert too admits to one goal. “Absolutely looking to get a spot for the big race, Western States. I have been training my arse off. Sisu is where I’ll be on race day,” Lambert gushed. This will be her first trip to the Columbia River Gorge and her crew is responsible for taking pictures of the waterfalls that she overlooks while racing.
Although registered, would-be contenders Melanie Bos and Nicola Gildersleeve are not expected to start the race.
Other Trail and Ultra News
The International Trail Running Association, the group closely tied to the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc and the Ultra-Trail World Tour, held its annual general meeting in Paris. A new executive meeting was introduced, and included are well-known names like Michel Poletti, Tsuyoshi Kaburkaki, Nathalie Mauclair, and Craig Thornley, among many others. Thornley joined the conference via the web and tweeted several of the group’s messages over the weekend, including the potential creation of an environmental commission, pointing to the group’s work for course certifications and athlete rankings, and also mentioned the difficulty of trying to convince U.S. race directors of an organizing body’s need.